Following a huge backlash, China’s top social media site has abandoned plans to censor gay content.
After Sina Weibo, which is similar to Twitter, announced it would delete posts with gay subject matter, it was flooded with messages with hashtags like #ImGay and #ImGayNotaPervert. The company had said its intention was to remove sexually suggestive and violent posts, but it was including LGBT conversations, as well.
The news did not go over well, though, even in a country notorious for repressing free speech. Even The People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official paper, criticized the planned removal of LGBT content: “There should be a consensus around respecting other people’s sexual orientation,” read one story.
By Monday, a spokesperson for Sina Weibo said “the clean-up of games and cartoons will no longer target gay content.” They also insisted Weibo was only acting in accordance with China’s Internet laws.
“The response shows that we LGBT people in China are slowly realizing our rights,” Hua Zile, who started Sina Weibo’s first LGBT-themed account, told The Washington Post. “Gay people who would not have spoken out years ago are now letting their voices be heard.”
On Sunday, more than 20,000 people participated in the Rainbow Marathon, a march for LGBT rights in Nanjing. Organizer Lucas Chen said Sina Weibo’s announcement gave the rally “added significance.”
“The main objective of the marathon is to help everyone courageously come out of the closet,” Chen told the Post. “So it was meaningful that people online were also bravely speaking out and showing that they were not defeated by negativity.”